Most cars on the road are mainly steel and other metals, but when it comes to racing, it’s a different matter. A car is almost unbelievably heavy; a sedan weighs about 3,000 pounds. In animal terms this falls short of an elephant (where you’re talking 10,000 pounds or more) but it roughly equivalent to an average sized giraffe—which are not known for their maneuverability.
Where you find Carbon Fiber in a car:
In racing, it’s all about reducing the weight of a car. Materials such as carbon fiber can increase performance while also reducing weight—which by itself increases performance. Most people think of the body of a racer when you say carbon fiber, but the truth is you use it more in the suspension of the vehicle.
For example, in something like an Aston Martin Valkyrie the carbon fiber body might shave off a couple of pounds, but still weighs 2,200 pounds (which is the equivalent of a heavy bison). The engine powerplant is the big selling point here—854 watts. Okay, 854 watts is roughly the power of a commercial coffee grinder, so let’s talk horsepower. How does 1,145 hp sound? Better right?
Another reason for using carbon fiber is that a car remains strong and robust despite the decrease of weight. The engineers speak of high “strength-to-weight ratios.”
Many twin turbos are made of carbon fiber as this is currently the best way to get maximum thrust from them. (A twin turbo is just a car with more than one turbocharger in its engine.) Examples of cars with twin turbos include the Koengigsegg Agera and the perhaps more well-known McLaren Senna. But without the carbon fiber these cars wouldn’t able to handle high speeds.
Okay we can’t ignore the body, or shell, for ever. The composite materials used to make cars may be described as a polymer. As well as being more suitable for racing, these cars are more fuel efficient. But if shedding weight alone won races, you’d see a lot of dune buggies on the track and you don’t.
Another place carbon fiber helps is aerodynamic coefficient or Cx. Also known as a drag coefficient it’s about with how an object react the air around it. Put simply, engineers want cars that do not have too much drag otherwise it will be resistant to moving a high speed. When your drag goes up with the speed, you’re fighting a losing battle.
A final biproduct of carbon fiber composite is that there’s no chance that they will rust or corrode. Of course, a race car driver probably destroys his body shell long before it would get a chance to rust.
The total change of the dynamic of the car is one reason that race drivers need special training, after all it doesn’t move like a metal car and the levels of acceleration in these vehicles take most people by surprise.